Joined 10 years ago from Sunnyvale, CA
I grew up in the little town of Saratoga, California, about 40 miles south of San Francisco, that is now known as Silicon Valley. My old neighborhood is now full of expensive custom homes, but the first tract of homes were all 3 bedroom, 1 bath houses with flat roofs and 2 car garages on lots big enough to fit a second house on. The houses were all the same except maybe the color and direction of the floorplan. The only industry in Saratoga at that time was fruit. The Silicon Valley was in it's infancy, but when the Intels, and Apple's, and AMD's, started growing, Saratoga was one place the employees of those companies wanted to live.
It wasn't long before the neighborhood started to grow, with lots of kids of all ages moving in. As far as families went, we had one of the largest. My sister Judy, came first (1951). She was about a year old when my parents bought the house. I was next, almost two years later (1953), then came Jeff (1956), Mark (1957), and Mike in 1960.
I grew up with an interest in sports and we spent lots of time with the street as our baseball diamond and football field. Everyday, after riding the school bus home, we would meet somewhere and pick teams and play. Everyone played. If we had extra players, we just put them in the outfield and added them to the line-up. When we weren't playing baseball or football, some days we would pack a canteen and take a hike following the railroad tracks until it crossed a creek. Sometimes we would follow a trail up the hills to "hangman's tree." I don't know why we called it that, because, as far as I know nobody was ever hung from that tree. For years it just sat there by itself just far enough for some kids to hike to without getting into too much trouble.
We played war. That was a game where we chose up teams and one team would go off in one direction and the other team would go off in another and then they would try to find each other without being seen. If you "Shot" some one without him seeing you first, he was "dead". The game was over when all the players on one team were "dead".
Then there were the bicycles. We were always riding bicycles. I always had one and was always trying to buy one from somebody. They were always breaking down and if you wanted it fixed, you had to fix it yourself. Except for Mark.that is. As we got older he figured out that I couldn't stand to see a bike in disrepair, so he would turn it upside down on the back patio knowing that I would fix it.
I had to learn to fix bikes the hard way - trial and error. Of course, I didn't know a lot at first. For example, I didn't know you couldn't put a 24 threads per inch nut onto a 28 threads per inch axle. I also learned that if you took something apart and put it back together; if you have some parts left over you probably did something wrong.
Jeff was more interested in cars and motorcycles. If there was a neighbor working on a car he was there. The lessons that he learned about fixing cars were worhwhile as Jeff still does most of his own car repairs and can diagnose problems when even the dealerships can't figure them out.
Mark was more artistic. He played guitar and sang, he painted and took photographs. But there was something wrong with Mark. It showed a little when he was younger. He would argue just to argue. As he got older he joined a church that put down homosexuality, even though he was gay himself. He moved moved into a house in Cupertino where the landlord had converted the garage into a room. It worked for a time. He got by. He had his dogs and his vegetable gardens. But when the landlord raised the rent he had to move out. He couldn't have a dog or a garden in the boarding house he began renting a room from. So he had to get rid of his dog.
After a series of bizarre incidents, Mark was diagnosed as being Bi-Polar. With medication, Mark would seem normal to anyone who didn't know him, but the medication made him feel groggy. Without the medication, Mark felt much better. The only problem was, he wasn't better. He didn't think the voices he heard were a problem. So what if he exposed himself to a police officer or set fire to a pile of his father's clothes.
With everyone demanding that he take medication and him insisting he didn't need it, there was only one choice for Mark and that was to get away. It took a few tries, but Mark finally broke free. He was seen crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S., but they couldn't hold him. He hadn't done anything wrong. Mark was seen collecting cans on the beach in Southern California by a neighbor who was going to school in the area. That was the last time any of us heard anything about Mark even though Judy made an attempt in 1999 to look for him. In fact, by then it was already too late. Mark had been found dead on a construction site in Los Angelos in 1994. The notice arrived in June of 2002.
Judy was always in trouble. One of her councilors told my mother that she was a good person, she just had a bad choice of friends. For being so close in age, we spent very little time together. She was held back in second or third grade, putting me one grade behind her. Still that meant we were only in the same school a small amount of time. It was as if we didn't know each other. Judy had one short marriage to a motorcycle gang member and a second marriage to John, an inmate at Soledad State Prison when they got married. Judy thought John was just misunderstood. He could be charming, but mom and dad never trusted him and they had good reason. She was abused in both marriages. Getting away from John wasn't quite as simple as getting uo and leaving. He had made threats to her and our family. Finally, she had had enough. She moved in with our parents and never looked back. However, some damage had been done. Judy regretted the trials and tribulations she had put her famiy through and spent the rest of her adult life trying to make up for mistakes she made when she was younger.
Mike was the baby of the family. He was everybody's favorite. He was also very sensitive. Just a little praise would make him cry with embarrassment. When he was young, maybe 10 years old, I would take him to freestyle wrestling tournaments sometimes just to watch; sometimes to compete against kids in his age group. One time he pinned his opponent and he was so happy. I was disappointed when he didn't go out for wrestling in junior high. His reason was that he wanted to be with his friends.
I attended Lynbrook High School, graduating in 1971 and went on to San Jose State on a wrestling scholarship. Upon completing my eligibility, I dropped out of college without graduating. I married my wife, Susan, in 1977 and we had our first child, Sarah, in 1979; and our second, Kyle in 1988. Sarah lives across town in San Jose with her husband, Andrew and two children and Kyle lives a few blocks away from her with his girlfriend, Kaitlin.
For ten years, my primary occupation was as a bicycle mechanic, becoming a shop manager in 1978. Eventually I realized that there wasn't enough money in the bicycle business to support a family. That is, of couse, unless you own it, and in 1983 my boss sold the shop. After a couple months on unemployment, my father in law hooked me up with a small fire sprinkler company in Cupertino and after taking a cut in pay, I was in the sprinkler business.
The pay was not good at first, but I was able to get some hours from one of the bicycle shops I had worked for and we were able to get by.
As time went on and I got some experience, my wages went up until I was making much more money than I had ever made in the bicycle business. Here was a case where losing my job (as bike shop manager) eventually came to be a blessing.
However, after time, I could see that working for a small company had it's limitations and when Ron, a co-worker decided to go work for another, larger company, I followed. It was about this time that I started to have some odd symptoms that I either chose to ignore or didn't think they were significant enough to warrant further investigation. These symptoms included a muscle twitch that would occur at odd times and continue for seemingly for as long as it wanted to. Co-workers noticed that my right arm didn't swing when I walked. I attributed that to the fact that i carried more of my tools on my right side and that blocked my right arm from swinging. During this time my friendship with Ron increased. We would go on camping trips with our families. His son and mine were near the same age. We would take my sister along sometimes and when his marriage was breaking up it wasn't too long before the two of them got together and got married.
Things went well for several years, but the economy took a downturn in the early 1990's and once again I found myself looking for work. Another former co-worker was starting a business and needed help. We figured that as partners, we wouldn't need to hire employees and we would be able to keep busy because our overhead was lower. After about a year and a half we had grown tired of each other. With the economy improving, I sold him my share of the company and had enough money to buy a personal computer and a printer. This was a big deal back then. Computers were more expensive and they barely came with any memory or processing ability. But I wanted to learn how to use one and so did the rest of my family. Then I went back to work with my old employer.
I was happy to be back and to have steady work again. Pretty soon, however, I started getting recruited by a much larger company; one with better benefits and a 401K plan. The computer and the 401K turned out to be very important. The substantial increase in pay was also important.
Not too long after I started with the new company, my symptoms started getting worse. I went to a doctor, who said to practice swinging that arm and then sent me to a neurologist. A neurologist, me? Still, there was something wrong. He watched me walk. He had me tap my fingers together. They were fast at first, then quicky got slower and slower. He told me he needed to take more tests like an MRI. He said it could be a tumor or even a stroke, but on the bottom of the page he wrote "rule out Parkinson's". I didn't know anything about Parkinson's, but of the three I would not have chosen Parkinson's. But Parkinson's it was. He gave me the choice of taking medication and I declined. To me, it was just another admission that something was wrong. But something was wrong and I knew I couldn't continue working unless I did something. He started me on a beginner dose of Sinemet and I couldn't believe the improvement. It was immediate and it was effective. I had had a cramp in my calf for about a month. Suddenly it was gone. My arm started swinging again. I had some energy left at the end of the day. It was nothing short of a miracle. Suddenly it all made sense. The muscle twitch, the lack of arm swing; I felt like I had been given five years back.
I was able to continue working at what was a very physically demanding job. At the same time the company was growing quckly and spending money buying up other companies, by putting the maximum contribution into my 401K and getting matching contributions from the company, I was able to save some money.
At the same time the company was doing some customer service training with all the employees. Most of the field employees didn't know how to use a computer and resented being asked to take personal time to learn and to complete the training. To me, this was an opportunity to practice what I was already interested in learning anyway. I finished the program before most of the employees had even started it.
At the same time my medication was becoming less effective and increasing the dose caused side effects, such as dyskinesia that were bothersome. Five years after my diagnosis I was offerred a job with the company as Director of Safety and Training. I would no longer be working in the field. It was never quite clear exactly what my responsibilities were, but since there was an obvious need for safety training and the corporate head of safety was pushing for safety programs, I started there.
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